On September 23, 7-year-old Mohan* saw his female cousins apply mehendi on their hands during a family function, and wanted those intricate designs on his hands too. But little did he know that when he would get back to school on October 5 after the holidays, his teachers would parade him to the Principal’s office for the ‘rule violation’ of applying mehendi on his hands and then fine him Rs. 500.
“And it was not even seen properly on his hands, 90% of it was gone, yet they asked him to pay the fine,” says Jayakumar Desaiah, the parent of the child.
Jayakumar is angry, but explains calmly what children have to go through at the Doveton Girls’ and Boy’s Hr. Sec. Schools at Vepery in Chennai.
“Every morning students have to stand in front of the teacher with their hands out, and teachers will check. If children have any nail polish or mehendi, then they are fined,” he says.
His child was traumatised for a couple of days, he says. “Initially when he told me about the fine, I gave him Rs. 50 and told him to pay that. But the school didn’t accept it, wrote a note on his book stating that he had to pay the full fine. He started asking me repeatedly under pressure and fear. He would wake up in the morning and ask, while studying suddenly he would start pleading. Then I decided to go to the school myself to deal with it,” he says.
At the school, he was subject to the rude behaviour of the management staff, he says. “I told them it was a tradition in a Hindu function, and they told me that if that was the case then I should not admit my child in a Christian school,” Jayakumar alleges. Apparently, they even showed a register of several other heavier fines being paid by other parents, from Rs. 2000 to Rs. 5000, for various such ‘misdemeanours’ like not turning up to school on important days, or crossing the boundary while playing in the fields. The school is a part of the Doveton Corrie Protestant Schools Association based in Chennai.
Finally, when the school staff asked him to take his son home if he cannot cough-up the money, Jayakumar paid the fine but insisted that they give him a receipt, which he then passed on to an activist friend.
The school authorities gave The Hindu a bizarre explanation,
The correspondent of Doveton Girls’ and Boys’ Higher Secondary School H.E. Wilkins said the aim of rules was to ensure uniformity among students.
He said the school does not punish students but only the parents who do not abide by its rules.
“We are child-friendly and do not punish our students. From next year, we plan to remove the word ‘fine’. The money collected will be sent to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund,” he added.
Activists say that this is not the issue with just one school, and that it has become a trend among private schools to charge hefty fines and make money out of it. “Where does all this money go? Is it accounted for? This has become a way of making money for the schools,” says Paadam Narayanan, an activist who brought attention to the issue.
He also says that fine-system has an adverse impact on children. “The children only end up learning that they can make mistakes and get away by paying fines,” says Narayanan.
The News Minute could not reach out to the school-management as the school did not function over the weekend.